The Election Commission of India has filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court, stating that it has received details of all donations received by various political parties through electoral bonds, in sealed covers.
This is pursuant to the Supreme Court's order dated April 12, 2019, whereby a bench headed by the then CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, directed all parties to furnish information as to the donations received by way of Electoral Bonds, including the identity of the donors, amounts received, details of payments, bank accounts etc to the Election Commission in sealed covers.
"According to us, the just and proper interim direction would be to require all the political parties who have received donations through Electoral Bonds to submit to the Election Commission of India in sealed cover, detailed particulars of the donors as against the each Bond; the amount of each such bond and the full particulars of the credit received against each bond, namely, the particulars of the bank account to which the amount has been credited and the date of each such credit," the April, 2019 order read.
The Supreme Court was hearing petitions filed by NGOs Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms(ADR) and CPI (M) challenging the government's Electoral Bonds Scheme, 2018.
The affidavit filed by the EC contains a list of 105 political parties, including national, state unit of national parties, state parties and registered unrecognised parties, who have filed the requisite details.
The affidavit further states the Commission has received the status of submission of Audited Annual Accounts of most of the political parties and it provides a list of those, who have not yet filed the audited accounts.
"Insofar as the issue of submissions of annual audited report by the political parties to the Election Commission of India is concerned, a list showing the current status of submission of audited annual accounts of the political parties is being annexed herewith," the affidavit read.
Through the affidavit, the Commission has clarified that being a Constitutional Authority, it will not take any contentious issues or join any submission on merits in the matter, as these are matters between contending parties.
Electoral bonds were introduced by amendments made through the Finance Act 2017 to the Reserve Bank of India Act 1934, Representation of Peoples Act 1951, Income Tax Act 1961 and Companies Act. On January 2, 2018, the Centre notified the scheme for electoral bonds, which are in the nature of bearer instruments like a Promissory Note capable of being purchased by an Indian citizen or a body incorporated in India. The identity of the donor will be known only to the bank, which will be kept anonymous.
The Petitioners had challenged the EB Scheme, alleging that the bonds have been kept "secretive" for the benefit of big corporate houses. The amendments made to Companies Act 2013 exclude the requirement of disclosure of names of political parties to whom contributions have been made. The Petitioners apprehend that this will lead to "private corporate interests taking precedence over the needs and rights of the people of the State in policy considerations".
Through its April, 2019 order, the Supreme Court had refused to stay the EB Scheme, observing that the question could not be determined on the basis of a short hearing.
Notably, the Centre and the EC have taken contrary stands in this matter. While the Centre had claimed that allowing anonymity in political funding will "promote transparency in funding and donation received by political parties", the EC told the Supreme Court that this would "compromise transparency" and could lead to the "increased use of black money for political funding through shell companies".
The Commission is being represented by Advocate Amit Sharma.
Click Here To Download Affidavit